Anderson Varejao Injury: Cavs Hurt in Long Term with Inability to Trade Center

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2013

Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao will be out 6-8 weeks with injury
Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao will be out 6-8 weeks with injuryMike McGinnis/Getty Images

With Anderson Varejao's injury, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost their best opportunity to immediately build a long-term winning team.

The Brazilian center was having his best season in the NBA. Varejao was setting career highs in scoring, rebounding and steals.

At 30 years old, he looked to be a nice bargaining chip for the Cavs to use in a possible trade that would allow the team to acquire more young talent to surround Kyrie Irving.

That's not going to happen now, as Sports Illustrated is reporting that Varejao will miss six to eight weeks with a knee injury:

Cavs' Varejao to miss 6-8 weeks with knee injury

— SI NBA (@si_nba) January 9, 2013

With the injury, you can forget about Cleveland being able to move him.

It obviously hurts the team in the short term because he was the Cavs' second-best player. Nobody on the team can replace his energy and rebounding ability.

Then, there's also the long-term ramifications that not being able to receive the trade haul has.

SI was reporting during the weekend that the Cavs were working with the Minnesota Timberwolves on a trade:

Report: Cavs, Wolves discussing deal for Varejao

— SI NBA (@si_nba) January 6, 2013

Nikola Pekovic or Derrick Williams would have been the player moving to Cleveland. It's not as if either of those guys makes the Cavs immediate contenders, but they're both upgrades from what the team has.

Although Williams has been disappointing, he's still only 21 years old, and his PER of 16.06 is respectable. Pekovic is averaging 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds a game.

Some might see this as a blessing in disguise because the Cavs have gotten even worse right now, thus increasing their chances in the draft lottery. The team could draft another impact rookie with a Top 5 pick.

Honestly, though, Cleveland was going to be there regardless of whether Varejao was a member of the team or not.

If the Cavs will be able to unload Varejao at all in the future, his value is at rock bottom. No team will want to give up much for a center who played 56 games between the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons and then picked up another injury this year.

His salary for the next two seasons will be a little over $18 million. That's not unbearable, but it's a lot to pay somebody who likely doesn't figure in the team's future.

Varejao is a fan favorite, without a doubt. No Cavs fan really wants to see him go. However, it would have been for the better to see Wild Thing move during this season.

The Cavs need to start building a team that can be a winner, otherwise they risk losing Irving. Varejao makes the team better now, but trading him would have made Cleveland better in the future.

Now, Cleveland management needs to start working on a different way to provide Irving with a worthy supporting cast.